Why Meet?

Whatever else we understand about the local church, it is certainly a group of believers in Christ that meets together.

The emphasis in recent years on the church being "not only a meeting" ought not obscure the fact that the church certainly does need to meet to be true to its calling and identity. When the apostles used the word ekklesia to describe this new community that was emerging out of first century Judaism, their hearers would have associated the word with the idea of a public or group gathering. The "called out" were, etymologically at least, those who had been summoned from their houses by an imperial herald and gathered together to hear a proclamation.

The idea of gathering together was fundamental to the identity of the early church. The question is, why meet and what is the church meant to do when it actually comes together? Historically, several answers to this question have been put forward.

Traditionally, worship (usually defined as singing or listening to praise songs and/or reciting prayers) has been seen as central to the purpose for the church's gatherings. The Reformation placed the preaching of the word at the center of the church's meetings, reflected in the prominence given to the pulpit in Protestant church building designs.

More recently, many charismatic Christians would describe the purpose of meeting as being to "meet with God" - often defined as having a felt experience of God's presence, mediated either through the worship songs and prayers, the preaching of the Bible or the exercise of spiritual gifts - especially the more public and dramatic ones.

The question is, do these reasons do justice to the Biblical evidence for why local churches meet?

More next time...

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